Over my career I have been in or led 100’s (probably 1000’s) of different types meetings and project engagements. My guess is that almost 80-90% could have been run and led more efficiently and in turn the outcomes could have been more effective for the individuals and organizations that they took place in.
I am one of those types who like to not only talk about the outcomes of meetings and also I like to review the processes that were used during the meeting so that I can learn and adapt for next time. This holds true especially when I am part of a team or leading a team that is charged with solving problems or building out opportunities for the business.
I have come across a musical term that I have fallen in love with, not having a musical bone in my body. The notion of SYNCOPATION strikes as something that we should regularly do when faced with solving problems or opportunities that seem unsolvable (or we have failed at a number times).
According to Merriam-Webster: Syn-co-pa-tion (noun): musical rhythm in which stress is given to the weak beats instead of strong beats.
If we were to SYNCOPATE our meetings and problem solving sessions we would change our results to be more precise as we apply the notion of syncopation across both the people and process. First, we must recognize where we are creating the most emphasis in our meetings, the strong beats, may not be the areas that we need to so. Once we have done that, we can then bring to light the weak beats and tap into those areas to help us get different outcomes.
Three areas to SYNCOPATE in our meetings:
1. The people in our meetings.
When faced with a problem or opportunity we tend to rely on those who have the most knowledge and understanding of the problem or defined opportunity. While this is truism across the business landscape (why wouldn’t we want them in the meeting), these are not always the best people to be left alone to solve or create solutions that are needed. These people are the ones who are typically faced with the content of the meeting day in and day out. They are surrounded by the data and understanding of why we are in the current situation. While they have the best perspective on why we are faced with a challenge, they can also be clouded by it and not always see the best way to grow and move forward.
The weak beats in this situation are those who have great ideas and experiences that can contribute to the outcomes and are not so tightly tied to the situation that they might be able to see the surround with more clarity and naivety which is helpful to producing new and intriguing outcomes. It is an untainted view of the problem, opportunities, frustrations that have been experienced, and potential solutions that will help make for an outcome that has fresh approach and higher probability for implementation.
2. The approach to our meetings.
Having been in and out of the corporate setting for many years, the one thing I find extremely odd is the number of meetings that can take place in any given day that one person is “required” to attend. My own thinking process has been to understand how one person is actually supposed to get their job done when they are spending their time in and moving between conference rooms. Henceforth, the reason people bring their laptops to every meeting that they are asked to attend. I find this extremely off-putting as someone who has chaired, facilitated, designed and been responsible for the outcomes of many meetings over my career.
I can understand the need for laptops in order to access a shared drive, a presentation, or look for data that is necessary for the meeting to be successful. What I don’t understand is why the laptops are being used to perform functions outside of the meeting at hand. Doesn’t this just take away from the effectiveness of the meeting that we are in?
To create syncopation of the meeting we are leading:
Allow people to not attend. Be clear as to why someone is going to be in the meeting and have a specific role that they are going to perform. Typical roles are facilitator or leader, note taker/time keeper, participant/problem solver/presenter, etc. If they are not crucial to the outcome, give them an out to not attend—they have other work to do.
Have a plan and design to get to the outputs that you desire. There are many different types of meetings that we go to during any given day and I feel that they can be summed up as the following:
Data give: Where you are looking to present succinct, relevant data to your team.
Data receive: When you have asked others to present to you (and others) succinct, relevant data.
Problem Solving: When there is a problem and/or opportunity that needs to be rectified
Having a plan and design to accomplish these in the most efficient way will be beneficial to all in attendance. The key is identifying and letting each participant know which meeting we are having that way you can stay on track. Anything that is not part of the agenda should be parked and addressed following the meeting or in the appropriate time frame.
Stay on time. Too often we are comfortable with starting late (and accepting those who are late to our meeting) and ending after the scheduled meeting time. Knowing that people are always scheduled for meetings through out the day be mindful about ending on time and allowing for time to get to the next meeting. Doing this shows a level of respect to others that arrived on time and you show respect to the leaders of the next scheduled meeting where attendees are required to be.
3. The thinking in our meetings.
We have all been faced with the same business issues over an over. We typically go back to the tried-and-true solutions to see if this time, “it will stick.” So, how do we start to think differently about our work? The notion behind syncopate is altered beat patterns. The best way to get out of thinking the old way is to alter the thinking patterns of every day work so that you can help your team think differently, not harder about the problems and solutions that they are faced with.
Providing access to their weak beats, meaning, allowing them to tap into the thought processes that would normally be disregarded because it seemed apparently disconnected from the rest of the discussion. Give your team the opportunity to explore the genesis of their thoughts and create emphasis on the “what” it means versus the actual thought.
Create a space for the team to explore their connections and own maps of exploration. It has been said the “magic is in the details.” Don’t dismiss an obscure thought or notion. Drive through it, explore its rough edges and see where it will take you. As the team starts to feel the new thinking take place, the more productive the meetings and in term the outcomes will be.